Navigating Natural Disasters with IoT

November 12, 2019

From wildfires to earthquakes to landslides, IoT is helping predict and monitor disasters, improving response efficiency and saving lives.

Detection for Natural Disaster Prevention

Sensors placed in forests can measure temperature and moisture levels. Through IoT, officials can receive warnings when conditions are right for wildfires. Recently, California launched a state-wide IoT system to measure earth movements and alert citizens of an earthquake before it hits. The Idukki district of India has been using IoT to give citizens early landslide warnings for over a decade. IoT can even analyze historical data of extreme weather to predict days of the year possible future disasters might occur. When disaster does strike, IoT can automatically warn the public through connected devices such as phones, TV, electronic billboards and bus displays.

Sensors can be placed on bridges, building and utility poles. Sensors monitor the physical integrity of these structures and send alerts if they are in danger of failing under extreme pressure. This keeps people safe as bridges can be closed and buildings evacuated before any accidents occur.

Improving Disaster Response

In the midst of disaster, IoT can provide a stable network that operates wirelessly even if the power goes out. This is extremely important for staging relief centers and identifying affected areas to send rescue groups. Citizens can receive updates on their phones as to where the flood or fire is located, what evacuation routes are still open and if relief centers are open or have relocated. A citizen’s call to 911 or request for aid on a phone app can send automated alerts to nearby rescue teams, getting help to them faster. IoT can also analyze demographic info to help with evacuation and rescuer outreach, such as recognizing the need for a translator or identifying elderly populations that will need more assistance.

Drones allow rescue teams to assess damages without needing to venture into potentially dangerous areas. Drone imagery is also clearer and more precise than satellites. In rescue efforts, drones can scout ahead and identify dangerous elements, such as gases, chemicals or downed power lines. They can analyze structure integrity of buildings and houses. Using thermal imaging, drones can spot survivors rescue teams might not otherwise see. Before rescue teams can reach survivors, drones can deliver supplies including blankets, first aid kits, water, rope and life jackets. In the aftermath, drones can map how the land has shifted after floods, earthquakes and hurricanes, identifying unsafe public areas and needed reconstruction efforts.

In any application, IoT is a valuable tool in increasing rescue efficiency and saving lives.